Tuesday, May 14, 2013

(#4)...A Heretic's guide to the universe

Let's look more closely at God's love for human beings, not in the typically empirical manner in which we perceive everything, but rather more like looking at a painting and finding the "dark spaces," those spaces through which the artist defines his subject.
We humans are taught from early days to regard the empirical world as valid, as dangerous, as potentially exciting and certainly as the one through which we have to navigate. It is the world of "doing the right things" and "doing them rightly" first in the eyes of our parents, later in the eyes of our teachers, soon in the eyes of our peers, and later in the eyes of our mentors, bosses and spouses.
We are living in a tangible world of our physical senses, and those sense impressions paint our world in the sounds and sights, the touches and the rebuffs, the blacks and the blues of our universe.
And while that world of the senses becomes highly sophisticated in terms of how refined is its measurement of our "successes" or failures, and those of others are defined, we are nevertheless, left with a physical universe, from which we are going to depart, some day, all of us.
And in the meantime, we are also going to live in another world, that of the imagination, of the capacity to envision things differently from what they are and what they appear to the empirical eye.
It can be argued that we have created an idol of the empirical world, and then, following our forefathers and mothers, we have set out to conquer that world, in the eyes of the others who inhabit that world.
All of the sciences, medicine, law, and our interactions between and among our society, are regulated on an empirical basis. Evidence for decisions about one's medical condition, evidence for the court, evidence for the estimation of the age of the universe...these are all gathered and presented as the basis for our best minds to theorize about, to experiment upon, and to teach our children about those empirical facts in whose veracity and reliability we have some confidence. Much of that empirical evidence is  also documented, as our narrative, first oral and later in written form, from the earliest civilizations forward.
Embedded in our story, also, are some basic errors of empirical fact, many of which have taken on a hard-copy of the belief system of many people, including many people who call themselves christians. The earth is flat; the sun moves around the earth, not the other way round; people of different ethnicity, colour, language, beliefs are inherently evil; women are inferior to men; humans will always be an argricultural species, foraging for food; man cannot fly; being unmarried is a higher calling than being married; homosexual behaviour (sodomy) is evil; "an eye-for-an-eye" interpreted as justification for revenge, not a limit on vindictiveness; and there are literally dozens of others.
There is a sacralizing of many of these shibboleths, contained in what has come to be known as 'the holy book'....and our reading of that holy book, for the most part, is fraught with our partial viewing capacity...reading poetry as literal prediction, literal history, literal punishment, literal foreshadowing would be one such example.
In fact, our capcity, and our willingness to "fully appreciate" both the theological and the literary content of the holy book renders us, in most cases, still infantilized, with God out of reach and seemingly unwilling to reach out to us. In fact, it can also be argued that we have put the 'holy book' between God and our persons, and our lives, and our faith and spiritual journey. God cannot be and is not reducible to the human words in any set of books no matter how holy we consider those books. Nevertheless, and this is a tribute to the Jewish community, our diligent, constant and stumbling pursuit of whatever God means throughout that book, and any other book to which humans have access, as part of our formal and informal formation, as both social and spiritual beings, is worthy of both the time and the effort we spend, with others who share our diligence and our capacity to continue our search without expecting to reach a final, and unshakeable and incontrovertible "TRUTH" as the full revelation of God's mind, heart and spirit.
So just as we have placed an inordinate degree of importance on the "lighted" spaces in our universe's painting, rendering those darker spaces much less important, if significant at all, we have also placed an inordinate degree of importance on those signs that we believe are from God, without paying close attention to those "other" parts of our life's landscape, where God is equally, if not more prominently, present. Too many times, we have all heard, when one has fallen ill, "What did I do to deserve this? Why is God angry with me? What kind of punishment is God meting out to me, and for what?"
As if our physical, psychic and/or emotional pain would be the way God would speak to us, based on our guilt for whatever it is we have done/not done/ witnessed/ listened to, that we estimate that God would consider unacceptable!
It was John Milton, I believe, who wrote that we are punished not for our sins, but by them...as if the punishment is contained within the commission of the act, or the failure to act, should that be considered a sin. And clearly, when reflecting on the human relationship with God, from a christian perspective, sin has to be considered part of the relationship.
However, it does not have to be the part for which we pay with our escapism into any of the plethora of medications, alcohol, drugs both prescription and non-prescription, sex, work, isolation, pursuit of power and wealth as obsessions, violence and any of the other ways by which we sabotage ourselves, once we consider ourselves wortheless.
"You will never amount to anything," as a recitation from a parent for all the years when one lives at home as a child, or any of the many other forms of rejection, will never engender the kind of self through which one might be able to appreciate an unconditional love from a stranger named God. Punishment for innocent incidents, as an outlet for a control freak's obsession with power, will also impede the development of a self which might be able and willing to let in the truth of an unconditional love from a God whose capacity to extend such love is limitless.
The projections of neurosis, and more importantly psychosis, onto our children, in the name of God, is nothing short of the imposition of our human will-to-power, as compensation for our neurosis/psychosis and makes the appreciation of God's love almost unreachable, unattainable, out of reach of such depravity as we have been characterized to be. And this is the kind of education that is occurring in too many of our classrooms in so-called, self-appointed christian cultures, where modesty, inferiority and self-debasement is mistakenly considered humility, a profoundly christian value. It is also occurring in too many of our christian churches, where the will-to-power is at the core of too many practicing theologians, clergy, and ecclesiastical administrators, also deeply embedded in their own "worthlessness"...from the perspective of the sinfulness of their lives, as compared with Jesus the Christ.
And who is it that requires such a comparison? God? Jesus? the Holy Spirit?
I do not believe so!
We do not have to be compared to God, with respect to moral purity, in order to be able to integrate God's unconditional love into our perception of both ourselves and of God's place for us in the universe. And, if and when such a comparison is undertaken, whether consciosuly or unconsciously, once again, we are drowning in a pool of false modesty and "playing God" in our own lives.
Whether such comparisons are an integral component of our obsession with empirical extrinsic comparisons, the gift of Aristotle's comparative nomenclature, is uncertain. What is not uncertain is that such a concept of a relationship with God, is both unfathomable and unsustainable.
We carry this obsession for competition even futher, in our daily interactions too.
We consider those who lack an education, or a job, or a respectable house, or a late-model car, or a fashionable wardrobe, or a respectable family, career, retirement account, a different religion, or worse none at all, ....all of these plus many others, as inferior....as if God cared about those "empirical" benchmarks, and especially as if He cared most about the "right" brands we purchase, as signatures for our personhood.
If we were truly focussing on God's love for us, individually and collectively, we would most likely be more than a little in "awe" of the overwhelming gift of that love, and humbled in a manner that can only be characterized as authentic, as compared with the faux-humility with which we too often clad our bodies, our minds, and our social and political status.
And if we were to stop and reflect on the possibility that God's love, while unconditional, is also universal, for the Confucians, and the Zoroastrians, for the Hindus, the Jews, the Muslims both Sunni and Shia, for the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, for the agnostics and the apostates and the infidels, as a gift for which our receptivity has yet to mature into reality,  it might amaze many, from all faiths, to recognize that possibility.
And even as a possibility, (and who can legitimately argue that it cannot be the case?) we would, each of us whose lives depend on the planet's continuing beneficience, and also on our continued protection of its capacity to be beneficient, be somewhat transformed, even if only in those places on the canvas of our lives, where the light is not shining, where the dark spaces are found, where no one is paying any attention, all of us having rushed headlong into the conventional "take" that God is only in the lighted spaces, and whatever is in the dark spaces is dangerous.
It was Carl Jung whose word Shadow, and its unpacking both consciosly and unconsciously, gave some direction for those courageous enough and with sufficient stamina and self, to mine and to mind the gifts of that Shadow, not unlike the mining of the relationship between God and human, where the dark spaces live replete with their unfound and untapped gifts.

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